By Deirdre A. McQuade
May 29, 2009
Several years ago, the abortion advocacy organization, NARAL, decided to drop the word “abortion” from its name. Originally founded in 1969 as the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws, NARAL changed its name in 1973 to the National Abortion Rights Action League when Roe v. Wade legalized abortion nationwide. In 2003, the “A-word” must have become too distasteful or ineffective in promoting “reproductive rights.” NARAL dropped mention of abortion altogether but kept its acronym, calling itself “NARAL Pro-Choice America.” Now “NARAL” presumably doesn’t stand for anything.
It seems increasingly clear that “Pro-Choice America” doesn’t stand for anything either. According to recent nationwide opinion polls, support for abortion is waning, and America is trending decidedly pro-life. The trend started in the early '90s during the public debate on partial-birth abortion – in which the Catholic community was highly visible. Support for Roe peaked in 1991 and has been falling ever since.
The Gallup Poll’s Values and Beliefs survey released May 15 shows that Americans are taking a dramatic turn toward greater opposition to abortion. For the first time, a 51% majority of adults identified themselves as pro-life – an 8-point increase over the previous year. Only 42% called themselves pro-choice. Women have embraced the pro-life position more, and this is the first time in nine years that significantly more men and women are pro-life than pro-choice. A total of 75% think that abortion should be either illegal under all circumstances (22%) or legal only under certain circumstances (53%). Only 23% think abortion should be legal under any circumstance. Thus fewer than one in four agrees with the current status of abortion law under Roe v. Wade, which allows abortion on demand throughout the nine months of pregnancy. Other polls conducted by Gallup, the Pew Research Center, and Quinnipiac University have similar findings.
It’s encouraging that we live in “Pro-Life America.” This is a real sign of hope for women and their children. But the polls are not surprising because we’re seeing these results confirmed by an upsurge in grassroots pro-life activism. Pro-Life America has mobilized in three recent major campaigns thanks to the hard work of a small crew at the bishops’ partner organization, National Committee for a Human Life Amendment (NCHLA).
Over 34 million postcards to Congress were distributed during the campaign against the introduction of the so-called “Freedom of Choice Act” (FOCA) or similar legislation. Millions spoke up to defend the hard-won pro-life laws that have saved countless lives since Roe – laws like public funding bans and parental involvement requirements.
Then Pro-Life America got to work again, sending over 340,000 messages to the Department of Health and Human Services urging continued protection for the conscience rights of health care workers. Over 73,000 of these were sent through NCHLA’s online Grassroots Action Center. In May, that same action center facilitated tens of thousands of comments to Congress and NIH opposing destructive embryonic stem cell research and calling for ethical alternatives.
As we raise our voices to our policymakers, we must also pray that they will make wise decisions for the common good. The Pro-Life Secretariat has posted suggested prayers at www.usccb.org/prolife/liturgy/liturgicalprayers.shtml.
Deirdre A. McQuade is Assistant Director for Policy & Communications at the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Go to www.usccb.org/prolife to learn more about the bishops’ pro-life activities.